By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
In the last couple of years, people have asked me repeatedly how I have been able to weather the storms of life that I have.
Threats, persecutions, gossip, slander, slit tires, possible threats to burn my house down, trusted friends betray us, one possible attempt to burn our house down, plots to rob my wife and I blind, vicious attacks, hexes from satanists and witches, threatening notes left on cars, etc., are examples of the challenges that we have endured in ministry in the last couple of years.
Now, let me be clear: these negative experiences pale in comparison to the positive things which God has blessed us with. I cannot even begin to tell you of the numerous gifts God has showered down upon us.
Indeed, He is faithful!
Yet through it all, I have been asked repeatedly how we have endured these challenges.
It is here that I want to share with you the blessedness of a word that we often take for granted: the word “patience” or “perseverance” (NKJV).
Now, while the English language can communicate some incredibly beautiful pictures and definitions, it pales in comparison to the Greek of which the New Testament was originally penned.
The Greek word we will be studying is hupomone, and it has a very rich history and etymology. Let me share with you one of the passages where this word is used, and then we will launch into a study of it:
Romans 5:1-4-Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Paul here tells us that this word “perseverance” is the direct result of our “tribulations.”
The word that the Spirit inspired him to use here is hupomone, and this occurs about 30 times in its’ noun
form, and about 15 times in its’ verb form. The famous scholar of the Greek New Testament, William Barclay, examining the usage of this word in both secular Greek culture and the New Testament Scriptures, provides us some wonderful insights:
“And now we can see the essence and the characteristic of this great virtue hupomonē . It is not the patience which can sit down and bow its head and let things descend upon it and passively endure until the storm is past. It is not, in the Scots word, merely ‘tholing’ things. It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope; it is not the spirit which sits statically enduring in the one place, but the spirit which bears things because it knows that these things are leading to a goal of glory; it is not the patience which grimly waits for the end, but the patience which radiantly hopes for the dawn. It has been called ‘a masculine constancy under trial’. It has been said that always it has a background of andreia , which is courage. Chrysostom calls hupomonē ‘a root of all the goods, mother of piety, fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken, a harbour that knows no storms’. He calls it ‘the queen of virtues, the foundation of right actions, peace in war, calm in tempest, security in plots’, and neither the violence of man nor the powers of the evil one can injure it. It is the quality which keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory because beyond the pain it sees the goal.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 2250-2261 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press).
The main aspect of hupomone is the viewpoint of the person undergoing persecution and suffering. When we are going through difficult times and trials, we can either have an attitude of pessimism or optimism.
I can look at the challenges of life as things which will destroy me, or things which God allows to build me.
In fact, let me share this story with you to help illustrate further.
I am blessed to have continuing Bible studies with several individuals in the Hazard/Hindman/Hyden/London/Corbin area where I work and minister. The people I study with are both Christians and non-Christians.
One young lady I baptized asked me a few months ago to start teaching her the Book of Revelation, verse by verse.
One day while we were studying about the usage of this word in that great Book, I told her this: “Patience is the attitude of optimistic expectation instead of pessimistic resignation.”
You see my friends, how we view the challenges that we face will determine whether life “makes us or breaks us.”
According to the Bible, God allows trials and tribulations in order to develop good things in us (perseverance, character, hope, etc).
In another passage, Paul spoke of these same idea:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18-Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul understood by inspiration that the trials of this life are being allowed by God for very specific purposes and intentions.
They are “working for us.”
Well, what are they working for us?
“A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
The Apostle to the Gentiles had this understanding of hupomone, and it allowed him to see all of his “light afflictions” which are “but for a moment,” as being Divine tools which are preparing us.
Through the trials of life, we are being molded into a great “workmanship” of God (Ephesians 2:10).
When I approach the trials of life, I try to look at them now with anticipation.
I ask, “I wonder what God will bring through all of this?”
Sometimes it is very difficult to have that kind of optimism; but God has helped me along the way (and I know that He will continue to).
In fact, without the knowledge of His goodness and providential will, I would not be able to look forward with hope in any way, shape, or form!
Yet if we will stop and think about the Gospel, we will see it clearly.
I mean, stop and think about this with me: if God can take the death of His Son Jesus Christ and turn that horrible event into such a marvelous blessing for all people (Hebrews 2:9), can’t we trust that He will allow the trials of our life to bring about great and wonderful good?
Yes, I believe we can.
It is with that hope…that trust in God…that anticipation…that…”optimistic expectation instead of pessimistic resignation,”… that we can truly “persevere.”
Don’t let your trials destroy you beloved. Turn them to God and trust in Him to bring victory in ways you can’t imagine yet.
Beloved, if you are struggling through some trial or temptation, please know that the Son of God loves you and can use any difficulty to bring about good. He loves you so much that He died for your sins, was buried, and arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Why not today as a believer repent of your sins, confess Him today, and be baptized by the authority of Christ for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:37-38; 8:37; 22:16)?
If you are an erring child of God, why not repent of your sin and pray to the Lord, turning back to Him at once (1 John 1:9)?
The church of Christ at Couchtown is here to help you in any way.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.